An Unlikely Memorial

Written by Miriam Kanagy July 16, 2007


Just outside the ICEB Seminary cafeteria in Anapolis, Brazil there are three trash cans. Their purpose is for collection of recyclable trash, but they also serve another purpose. They are a memorial.

Trash cans would seem like a poor idea for a memorial, in fact they would seem like a really bad idea! However since our God is a very Big God, He has a way of using anything - even the bad and the ugly things - for His honor and glory.

leslie in front of cans

Leslie and Carolyn Grove became our "parents" on the mission-field starting 16 years ago when we first went to Brazil. Our three year old son even called Carolyn "grandma".

By the time Carolyn and Leslie had retired from full-time missionary service, they had spent 17 years in Japan and 20 years in Brazil. Leslie could preach in Japanese, Portuguese, or English. He was also a builder, and a leader. After retiring, the Groves returned part of each year to either Japan or Brazil to help out wherever and however they could. Sometimes it was building, sometimes it was preaching, but they always encouraged missionaries and pastors when they came.

Six years ago when the Groves were in Brazil, they stayed at the Seminary. Dave and I had just moved there. One day we were dismayed to see Leslie working on cleaning up three very rusty, filthy, trash-cans. But being the "new kids on the block" we kept quiet. Leslie had asked the Seminary director what he could do to help, and this was the job the director gave him.

There isn't anything wrong with fixing up trash-cans, but one might think that a director of a seminary would recognize that a man with Leslie's experience could have a great deal to teach future Brazilian pastors. Asking Leslie to do this job also went against Brazilian culture; the director wouldn't have asked any other Brazilian pastor or Brazilian missionary to fix up trash cans. It was poor stewardship on the part of the Seminary, and showed a real lack of respect for Leslie. However, Leslie being Leslie didn't even bat an eye; he did the job, and did it with joy and excellence.

Two years later, the Groves once again returned to Brazil. They again spent some time at the Seminary. They also travelled all over Brazil encouraging young pastors and one morning in Northern Brazil, Leslie awoke as he normally did every morning. However before he could get out of bed that day, he suddenly died.

Of course we were all in shock. Carolyn returned to Anapolis, to the Seminary where we and the students had prepared a Memorial service. We had asked specific people to share about Leslie's life. However, just before the closing of the service, a student came up to the front. He hadn't been asked to speak, but he had something he wanted to say; (and this is my paraphrase translation of his words):

"I didn't know Pastor Leslie very well, but I've been hearing everyone talk about what an amazing man that he was. While I've been at the seminary I've had a question that I've discussed with friends, and also with the director. I wanted to find a satisfactory answer, but I never did. My question has been, "When I become a pastor, how do I teach the people in my church to be true servants of God?" Well, after I heard so many say so much about Leslie, I suddenly realized that this was the same man I had seen fixing up those three trash cans. And well - now, I have my answer."

So three painted trash cans at the seminary are a memorial to us of God's true servant, Leslie. And they remind us that our very big God can use anything for His honor and glory.

Edited by Larry Grove